- Crusty food like bread or toast
- Crispy food like chips
- Salty food like pretzels
- Sweet food like candy
- Sticky food like cookies
- Sour food like vinegar
- Hot food like coffee
Summary - Vitamin U is a nutrient abundant in vegetables and fruit whose main function is to stimulate the secretion of mucin and enable the formation of the mucous bilayer that protects the stomach from acid and Helicobacter pylori.
In the human body, Vitamin U heals and protects against peptic ulcers. It does so by stimulating the secretion of mucins onto the walls of the digestive tract, acting as a precursor to the biosynthesis of the master antioxidant glutathione, and supplies methyl groups for gene regulation, polyamine biosynthesis and a range of other molecules. Of these three functions, stimulating mucin secretion is the most direct way in which Vitamin U works.
In the stomach, there is an alkaline mucous bilayer gel that protects the stomach from gastric acid, pepsin digestion and bacterial infection. Mucus consists of two layers - a deep gel-like layer attached to cells and a superficial loosely-attached layer on top. The proteins that make up mucus are called mucins (MUC1, MUC5AC, MUC6), which are heavily-glycosylated proteins that attract water, thereby forming a gel. Mucins are made in foveolar cells lining the stomach and are stored in vesicles awaiting summons to the lumen. At the surface, some mucins stay attached to the cells and act as an anchor for the loosely-bound mucins to attach by disulfide bonds. When this mucous bilayer is disrupted, gastric juice can reach the lining of the stomach causing irritation and inflammation. Left long enough, a peptic ulcer may form.
Your body has a number of different ways to stimulate the secretion of mucin. The molecules that trigger secretion are called mucin secretagogues. The prime mucin secretagogue is prostaglandin E2, a hormone-like molecule that has many functions in the human body. It has a protective role in stomach function, suppressing production of gastric acid and pepsin, while at the same time promoting secretion of mucin and the alkaline molecule bicarbonate (Park et al). NSAIDs reduce prostaglandin E2 synthesis by inhibiting COX-1, leading to less mucin, less protection and a greater risk of ulcers.
Why do we get ulcers? Ulcers result from an imbalance in the digestive system between protective and destructive factors. An alkaline bilayer of mucus containing mucin protects the wall of the digestive tract from harsh elements such as stomach acid, infection by bacteria living in the digestive system, NSAIDs, and dietary factors like high salt and alcohol. In modern times, NSAIDs increasingly contribute to ulcer formation by inhibiting the mucus-stimulating function of our body's prostaglandins. When the mucus layer is depleted, these harsh elements irritate the epithelial cells lining the digestive tract causing inflammation and enabling deep infection.
Ulcers are usually treated with proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers to reduce acid production, antibiotics to treat bacterial infections (particularly Helicobacter pylori in the stomach), antacids to neutralize acid, and mucosal protectants such as prostaglandin mimics. Unfortunately, these only provide a temporary solution to the problem. Ulcers return soon after cessation of treatment. Excessive stomach acid is usually not the root problem, nor is H. pylori infection. Most people with ulcers produce a normal amount of stomach acid, and half the world's population has H. pylori yet remain ulcer-free. These facts indicate that while acid and infection contribute to the formation of ulcers, other factors are at play.
Given the findings of Dr Cheney, it's easy to see that eating a balanced diet rich in sources of Vitamin U is beneficial. But how does Vitamin U work? In later studies, it was shown that Vitamin U has three properties that help maintain a healthy gut.
- Stimulating the release of mucin into the mucus layer, thereby protecting the walls from acid and bacterial infection (most important).
- Reducing inflammation by acting as a precursor to glutathione, the master antioxidant of the human body via its conversion to cysteine.
- Coordinating with other nutrients such as methionine, folate, B12, betaine, choline, SAMe and B6 to supply vital methyl groups required for optimal health.
Increasing the Vitamin U content of one's diet in combination with reducing the intake of foods that deplete the protective mucus layer has been shown to improve ulcerative conditions in the digestive system. A diet rich in fresh vegetables, vegetable juice and fruit, and low in salt, alcohol and sugars is a good approach for restoring the mucus bilayer in most patients.